Could this technique make you a more productive freelancer?
Have you ever had a personal trainer?
I have. No - I know, I don't look like I have. It was years ago.
My wife has too - she does look like she has. She has much more willpower than me.
One thing personal trainers like to get you to do is keep a food diary.
Literally, you write down everything you eat or drink during the day across the week. Everything.
It helps you analyse your diet. They look back at the data: commend your good choices; make suggestions on the bad ones.
Of course you feel mildly ashamed of your creme-egg habit staring back at you in black and white and start to change.
- It helps you spot areas you can improve in when you look back at it
- And it can stop you in the moment
You stop yourself lazily reaching for the chocolate because you know you’re going to have to write it down.
Sure you had two biscuits… but do you really want to write down you’ve had a third or fourth?
And so on.
How about we try this with our freelance working week?
How about we write down and track the way we spend our time?
A Time Diary.
Photographer Natalie Field told me in her episode of Being Freelance how she uses an app to track her productivity.
“This year, I've started using Toggl to track my time so that I can actually see where I'm spending it.”
“It’s definitely changed things for me and made me realise that I'm not always as productive as I think I am.”
“I think as freelancers, what happens is because we don't track our time, we feel like we're busy the whole time. But half of that time you’re maybe out having coffee or running around doing errands. And then at night, you have to work. You think, 'Oh, woe is me. It's nighttime, and I have to now be productive.' But, actually, you weren't maybe all that productive during the day...”
So who's with me?
Let's get our productivity into shape.
A Food-Time Diary.
What’s eating your time?
How much is aimlessly scrolling through Instagram?
(and there’s a difference to posting for work and interacting and then that point where you’re just scrolllllllllling).
How much time was spent each hour on email?
Or a call?
Then analyse it at the end of each day and the end of each week.
You might spot tasks you can group.
You might notice times of day where you struggle to focus.
You can’t change something when you don’t understand what needs changing.
And by the way, this isn't an excuse to constantly kick yourself about the way you spend your time.
As Natalie says, "It's important to focus on the fact that you do have freedom to do your own schedule and plan your own life."
And that's a great thing.
You might find yourself celebrating - 'yep, I'm working tonight, but look, that's because I spent two hours out having coffee with x this afternoon'.
Yep, 'x' - the most elusive and mysterious freelancer. Very confusing. I can never quite tell if he's signing his emails with a kiss.
So, what do you think? (Other than, 'ah, man I really fancy a creme-egg now!') Will you try this? Let me know if you do. If you can find time of course.